Top tips to succeed at a summer placement assessment centre

Teru Ikogho and Georgina Pearson, two of this year's summer placement students share their tips for success at a Centrica assessment centre.

Having been successful at assessment centres ourselves for the Marketing and HR streams, we’ve drawn together our top tips to help you prepare for the day. They also contain some information on the different types of activities that may come up on the day, so have a read and bear them in mind during your preparation for your assessment centre!

  1. Stay calm. If you’re going to an assessment centre then rest assured that your application and telephone interview have been impressive. Very few candidates reach this stage so congratulations are in order! Feeling nervous is completely normal; the trick is to not let your nerves get the better of you.
  2. Do your research on Centrica. This may seem an obvious tip but it’s something that can really set you apart from other candidates on the day, especially in the group exercise. Make sure that you’re aware of what’s currently going on in the business, as well as the energy sector more generally. The assessors will want to know why you want to work in the energy industry, and in particular why you want to work for Centrica, so make sure you have thought through these questions in advance. The Centrica and British Gas websites are a good place to start when beginning your research, in addition to newspaper articles on current hot topics in the industry.
  3. Know your stream well. The assessors will really want to see your enthusiasm and passion for the role that you have applied for, therefore it’s really important that you can justify why it is you have chosen your stream over another one. From our experience, simply saying that the skills and experience you have gained throughout university are relevant is not enough. You need to demonstrate that you have an understanding of what a job in that stream could entail.
  4. Get to know the other candidates. This is key. Building up a rapport with fellow candidates on the day helped to put us at ease. It also made interacting with them in the group exercise feel more natural. It’s important to remember that Centrica’s recruitment team could give offers to every participant, so try not to see others there as competition.
  5. Prepare competency-based answers in advance. In the one-to-one interview you will be required to answer competency-based questions, based on the personality test taken at the earlier stage of the recruitment process. Therefore, it’s vital that you prepare possible answers for these in advance, using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. Make sure that all your answers are specific and that you can answer what you’d do differently if you found yourself in the same situation again (note that it is okay for you to say that you would approach the task in the same way if you think that it worked well!). The assessors will want to see that you can recognise mistakes and provide alternative solutions.
  6. Be ready to think on your feet. All three elements of the assessment day (the group exercise, the one-to-one interview, and the individual presentation) will require you to work under pressure, so it’s really important for you to remain calm and read through all task briefs thoroughly. In the one-to-one interview, take some time to think of your answer before you start talking. All tasks are designed to test you, but it’s important to remember that they are doable in the time allocated, so stay calm and don’t panic! It’s really important that you understand what it is you are being asked to do, so if you’re unsure, read over the brief again. And in the one-to-one interview, feel free to ask the assessor to repeat the question; they will not hold this against you and will in fact look on it more positively than you providing an answer that doesn’t actually answer their question!
  7. Make an impact. In the presentation task you will receive all of the information you need for the content. You then have to present and answer some questions. Here they are looking for confidence and how well you think on your feet.
  8. Enjoy it. Of all the assessment centres we’ve been to, Centrica was the least intimidating and the most enjoyable. It really feels like the assessors want you to succeed, so just relax and be yourself.

We hope these tips prove useful in your preparation for your assessment day and all that is left for us to say is GOOD LUCK!

- Teru and Georgina, Centrica Summer Placement Students